Handsome bikes, called café racers, are attractive to first-time buyers, but overtime, it’s the importance of functionality that matters.
I ride a motorcycle, and, it’s true, I’m also gearhead … and a mechanical engineer. So it is no surprise that when my friends go shopping for a new motorbike, I’m typically the first place they come for advice. One of the conversations that happens frequently is that someone will ask me for a café-racer or sport bike recommendation. As their friend, I’m torn between helping them fulfill their motorcycle fantasy, or telling them the cold hard truth: sexy bikes are hard to live with—really hard to live with. But why? Well, if we take a closer look, we will notice that all the things that make a café racer or sport bike look cool aren’t there for aesthetic reasons. Each of them is actually a functional design element born from racing, and racing is focused on performance, not on little things like creature comfort, rideability, and ease of use (all things a first time rider will definitely need to get into riding).
Let’s take a look at the Ducati Sport Classic, one of the most beautiful bikes in production today and compare it with the KTM Adventures, one of the most usable bikes on the road today, and similar to one I actually own:
1. The solo seat cowl improves airflow over the rider at high speed.
2. The thin seat pad positions the rider low and behind the tank for better aerodynamics and handling.
3. The deep sculpting in the tank lets the rider tuck in his knees and gives him something to grip when he is moving around on the seat during hard cornering. The hump at the rear of the tank positions more of the rider’s body out of the airstream.
4. The low handlebars (clip-ons) allow the rider to lean forward to be more aerodynamic at high speed.
5. The low-slung stiff suspension is set up for stability during high speed cornering.
6. The high rear-set footpegs and controls increase cornering clearance.
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By Cormac Eubanks